Comprador intelligentsia A disease in higher education
Importing knowledge is not bad but accepting that knowledge without critical analysis is worse. Knowledge is seamless and cannot become the property of an individual who
creates it. However, the credit always goes to the creator. Stealing others’ ideas and not giving any credit to the creator is professional dishonesty. More than that, working as a colonized person in academia is being a comprador.
These days one can find different kinds of knowledge through web browsing. The teachers, students, academicians, professionals all use the same source to solve their knowledge problems. Teachers copy the same from the web and conveys it to the students in the classroom; students copy the knowledge from the web and submit the same as their assignments to the teachers; consultants write reports or prepare work plans as they are available in the web; professionals and academia use the same kno-wledge to educate themselves and educate others.
The issue here is copying others’ knowledge and making it one’s original is a crime. Have people critically analyzed the worth of knowledge in our context? If not, they have plagiarized other’s property without acknowledging them, and they are importing western knowledge without judging them. As Dunlop (1999) puts ‘comprador intelligentsia supports and stands for uncritical importation of ideas from his/her colonial master(s) and acts as the key person to serve the interests of Westernization in the name of globalization’.
Universities are the source of knowledge, because they are involved in research activities creating new knowledge for the academic world. Professors are known as the inventors of knowledge, because they are involved in research works. In this sense, university professors are the ones whom we can depend upon for the fulfillment of the knowledge gap in the globe in general and our society in particular. If professors themselves copy other’s knowledge with uncritical processes they also fall under the category of comprador intelligentsia.
How many of our higher education institutes have been able to produce new knowledge? How many professors are contributing new knowledge to the academia? Have the universities prioritized research in addition to their day to day teaching responsibilities? How many professors have published articles in research journals? How many of them are referred worldwide in their knowledge area? These are the major concerns of our higher education these days. Unless the answers to these questions are positive we will be blindly importing knowledge from outside and making our higher education an intellectual colony of the west. Honestly speaking, the majority of us are doing the same. So, the tag of ‘comprador intelligentsia’ is applicable to us as well. When will the day come to nominate our professors for Nobel Prize in different academic fields?
Eyal et al (1997) even goes further and writes comprador intelligentsia are ‘those managerial and technocratic professionals who serve as consultants, managers and intermediaries to foreign capital.’ They further write ‘members of the managerial and technocratic elite could, and in some cases, have sold their firms at advantageous prices to their former foreign business connections, and, at the same time, they made sure that in exchange for their services they will retain their position as managers’. Francis Nesbitt is even more critical by saying that members of the comprador class
use their national origins, color and education to serve as spokesmen and intellectual henchmen for international organizations where they play a role of ‘sugar coated bitter pills’..
This indicates how intellectuals sell themselves as slaves of western countries just for fulfilling their petty interest of earning a few
dollars. Academicians serving a particular donor agency can never go against the wrong policy of that institution. That is the reason why the consultants working for World Bank, ADB, DFID, DANIDA, FINIDA, NORAD, EU, UN agencies and others are following their master’s order quietly and ruining the education system of Nepal.
Paul Baron (1957) uses the term comprador bourgeoisie which originates from the dependency theory. Poulantzas (1973) says that comprador does not have its own base for capital accumulation and is linked with foreign imperialist capital. The same is true in education where the compr-adors do not have their own base and they always depend upon western knowledge for their personal benefits. That is the reason why our higher education curricula demands books written by western writers as true knowledge. By doing this, we are colonizing the brain of our future generation with western flavor.
Let us think about this reality so that our universities start focusing on research from today. We have our own indigenous knowledge which may not be sufficient to cope up with the colonized society but we can blend them properly so as to create new knowledge for our future generation. Then only we can make ourselves free from being ‘comprador intelligentsia’.
Dr. Wagley is an educationist